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The Yeshiva Owes Your Parents a Refund

I suppose that it is unkind of me to devote posts about the short comings of other bloggers. I have plenty of my own, but that is why I have a wife and kids. Those Virgos love to pick, point and poke. So it is not without a certain sympathy that I write this post about a group of bloggers.

Yidden, some of you need to contact whomever was responsible for teaching you English. In particular you need to contact the teachers who worked with your on grammar and spelling because they failed you. Your posts are practically illiterate. They read as if they were written by dyslexic fourth graders.

It drives me crazy to see this. It makes you look foolish, ignorant and often times boorish. I feel badly. I really do. I am almost ashamed to write this post because it is a bit unfair to pick on you this way, but that is why I am not mentioning names.

It just boggles my mind to see how poor your command of the language is. I don't claim to be an expert. I make plenty of mistakes and am not claiming to be a better person than you, but my word. Sometimes I just want to scream.

Written communication is a fundamental skill that impacts both your personal and professional life. It is a critical tool that you can use to do so much with, but some of you were robbed. Some of you were given the axe handle but not the blade. An anvil without a hammer is useless.

Oy, it is painful to read.

Comments

I've been maintaining for several years that my parents should ask for a refund (of part of the expensive fees) because I'm not happy with everything that I was taught or not taught. Thankfully though, our English teachers did a pretty good job.

I do have to agree with you, that at times it is difficult to read some posts, particularly those with bad spelling. (Sarah's pet peeve - bad spelling.)
benning said…
It's even worse, Jack, when you consider how many of those whose first language is English cannot write it. Or even speak it well.

A sad commentary on the government-run education system, I think.

Sheesh!
CJ Srullowitz said…
The lack of language skills, both verbal and written (particularly with the advent of email and txtg whr evthg iz shrtd & misspld), is a plague that is, lulei demistafina, affecting all of American society. Granted, private school students should receive a better education, but yeshivos (and by extention the parents who vote with their feet) prefer that their educational dollars be invested primarily in religious education. Now, that is unfortunate, but it's an unfortunate reality.

People seem to forget that no one's getting rich off the yeshiva business (though some make a pretty good living). The facts are that tuition paid in full covers only about two-thirds of the average yeshiva's budget; and yeshivos, on average, only collect about half the aggregate tuition bill (with only perhaps one-third of the parent body paying full tuition).

Therefore, as expensive as yeshiva tuition is, it does not (with only a handful of exceptions) cover the cost of the child's education.
Annie said…
I don't think that the issue is limited to Jewish bloggers, and I think that you can, in part trace the problem back to the decline of written language in American culture. How many people write letters anymore?
Jack Steiner said…
Sarah,

Poor spelling hurts my eyes.

Benning,

It is a terrible commentary and one that is just shameful.

Cloojew,

The issue is not whether any one is getting rich, but whether our children are being properly educated.

Annie,

We can point the finger in other
directions. However I am interested in identifying the places that we can influence in the shortest amount of time and then build outwards from there.

Elie,

:)
Jake Richter said…
Spread the love... it's a mitsvah to give rebuke. It's a damn shame the way some people express themselves, if it can really be called that, beings it's so horrific. I wasn't sent to the yeshiva systems as a young child but eventually I headed over to a post high school yeshiva. The thought of losing my ability to coherently communicate to the English speaking community kept me up nights.
PsychoToddler said…
You don't feel badly.

You feel bad.

http://www.grammartips.homestead.com/badly.html

/smart ass
Jack Steiner said…
You don't feel badly.

You haven't seen the gloves on my hands. I feel badly.
Hi Jack,

I've found your blog through Sara-with-no-h's.

Being an English teacher (not a Yeshiva one; I'm a secular European), I agree with you on the lack of proper spelling on Jewish blogs. But little attention to orthography is not only paid in Jewish blogs' posts and comments written by people that were raised in a language other than English but also by many that called their mother and father 'mom and dad' and not 'mame unt / int tate'.
In addition, many writers seem to be unaware of the basic rules of English punctuation (which actually are fairly easy), participle clauses, gerunds, narrative tenses, articles etc.

Who is to blame?

Can we blame the schools that will let students pass despite an apparent lack of ability to properly communicate in the language of the country they live in? Private schools are businesses, too. No private school would be able to compete with others if it had a high fail rate. And even though those schools receive certain monetary aids from public funds, they still strive to teach as many children / adolescents as possible to survive.
Can we blame the education authorities that seem not to exercize enough control over religious day-schools? We hardly can as I bet they are overworked enough as they are (no sarcasm here).
Can we blame the parents? To answer this with a question: how would they know better? Odds are high that many of the parents whose children blog have not received a 'higher' secular education than their offspring. Besides, many parents already struggle enough as they do to pay for their children's tuition. Plus, we must take into consideration that the clocks in the really frum world tick differently; treating one's children to profound basic secular education can easily turn one into a social outcast.
Can we blame the blogs' authors? To a limited extend, we can. Teaching material on English grammar (not all of it quality though) is available on the internet, there are spellcheck, (online) dictionaries and thesauri, there are endless lists of EFL books available online and at any major bookstore. But then again, foreign language acquisition gets more and more difficult after puberty. In addition, if one's spouse is not supportive of the 'affinity to secularism' (i.e. learning English), one might well end up facing an imminent divorce. (Sad but true; many such cases have happened in the Chasidic environment I socialize with. Not all frum marriages are as open-minded, giddy and mutually supportive as many that are portrayed on various blogs.)

Obviously, many frum blogs serve as an outlet for the social and cultural pressures their authors feel. For heaven's sake, encourage them to blog to if it preserves their sanity. In my experience, most frummies are more than glad about people helping them improving their English. Constructive criticism is key, destructive criticism in most cases leads to frustration and resignation. Those people often are vulnerable enough when exposed to the outside world.

If that's of anybody's benefit, I shall shortly be blogging the most basic English punctuation rules and a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them. Anybody will be welcome to contribute.
Anonymous said…
Here Drush is a blog by a "Yeshiva-graduate," where he prides himself on his command of the English language. There are others as well.
Shira Salamone said…
I'm a product of the U.S. public (government-funded) school system. While I'm embarrassed to say that my punctuation skills leave something to be desired, I think that my English skills are often better than those of many people who are younger than I. (For the record, I'm 58). I've discussed the issue of teaching English grammar with public, private, and Jewish day school parents. Most have said that schools no longer do a thorough job of teaching grammar skills.

My personal pet peeve is the doubling of the verb "to be." What do you mean, "The problem is, *is* that?"
Shira Salamone said…
I meant to say, "I think that my English *grammar* skills are often better than those of many people who are younger than I." Sorry.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Mir guy. I do not think it is the Yeshiva system that is to blame (or to be blamed). Most Yeshiva guys do not view literacy as being a strong component of their resume'. I myself only started writing seriously 5-6 years ago when I moved back from Israel. Up until then, I did not even own a computer and everything I wrote was handwritten in Hebrew. So how did I come to “pride myself” on my writing skills? I actually went to the library and took out books on grammar, and after reading a number of them, I adopted the teachings to the style I was using. Punctuation, I believe, is the easy part. It is style that is the most difficult aspect of quality writing. I often tell those who seek to improve their writing skills that when writing for the public, one has to be aware of his audience and write “with a life.” Writing cannot just be hum-drum, unless, of course, the content itself is so intriguing that the reader could care less about style. I believe the proliferation of blogs has allowed most bloggers to ignore the opportunity of writing with style and instead they take the short-cut. There is no real loss to the reader, as the reader merely seeks the latest news or information. The writer, however, should take the lesson of the Daf Yomi Maggid Shiur, who usually is the primary beneficiary of his own shiur.
Jack Steiner said…
Who is to blame?

One could argue that all of us are responsible.

Mir Guy,

I'd like to see more than a few.

Most have said that schools no longer do a thorough job of teaching grammar skills.

Shira that seems to be the case.

I do not think it is the Yeshiva system that is to blame (or to be blamed). Most Yeshiva guys do not view literacy as being a strong component of their resume'.

Ben,

You make the case for me. Our yeshivot are responsible for providing guidance and instruction to their students.

That means it is incumbent upon them to cover multiple areas of instruction.

For better or for worse many people judge the intelligence and ability of others based solely upon their communication skills.

If the only metric we used was their writing ability they would be in serious trouble.
Anonymous said…
Jack:

"You make the case for me. Our yeshivot are responsible for providing guidance and instruction to their students.

That means it is incumbent upon them to cover multiple areas of instruction."

I think yeshivos do their job. Most guys just don't use the skills offered. If I had not started writing, I would not have used the skills. For instance, I studied algebra in yeshiva high school. When I come across a situation that requires that knowledge, it is incumbent upon me to review what I studied and apply that knowledge. I fail to see where the yeshiva went wrong.
Anonymous said…
Jack:

Alleyways to Torah

Daf Notes

Limud Torah

Parsha

The above are just a few, but I am sure that we both can find many examples the other way as well; bloggers that have a College education, and nonetheless, do not write with proper grammar. Their spelling is atrocious (which is sad because most blogs have a built-in spell check).

I am not denying that there are Yeshivos that do not teach proper English, but there are some that do. There are also many Yeshivos who have a legitimate program, but some of the boys, with backing from their parents, try to undermine the system.
"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." Immanuel Kant, Metaphysics of Morals

Our ability to deliberately decide between "yes" and "no" (or "good" and "evil") makes us responsible for society.
Jack Steiner said…
When I come across a situation that requires that knowledge, it is incumbent upon me to review what I studied and apply that knowledge. I fail to see where the yeshiva went wrong.

Ben it is twofold. Obviously the student bears responsibility, but so does the school. The school could make sure that they said that it was important for students to learn English as well as Gemara etc.
Avromi said…
I happen to know that many of the Yeshivos do just that, Jack; cooperation from the parents is crucial.
Jack Steiner said…
Avromi,

Parental involvement is critical- no argument there.